Carson Patten, the cowboy roper

To read on Montana Sports website:

Lewistown cowboy with Down syndrome excelling as a team roper

Carson Patten

Carson Patten trains with a Hot Heels dummy steer to prepare for Sunday’s Roy Rodeo. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

HOBSON — On his ranch just outside of Hobson, team roping instructor Shawn “Tater” Erickson and his star pupil Carson Patten are preparing for Sunday’s Roy Open Rodeo.

“You ready to do this?” asked Erickson, the heeler, to his header. “Are we going to get fired up and rope good?”

Steers are loaded. The gate opens. And the duo takes off on run after run after run.

Not every ride is successful, in fact most end without a catch. But there’s no place either of them would rather be.

“Everybody knows I’m a very good grand champion rider,” explained Patten, a 20-year-old graduate of Fergus High School. “This is a big part of my life.”

Carson Patten was born with Down syndrome. Nevertheless, he dreams of being a world champion roper, something that seemed impossible years ago. He started riding while competing in Special Olympics equestrian events and it was there that he first met Tater and his wife Erlonna.

“(Our relationship) really started with my wife (coaching) in the Special Olympics and that being a gift that we like to give and to work with,” Tater said. “Carson started to really rise to the top. And he liked being with us and being around us and started to come out to our 4-H events and he started coming out to our roping events. And every challenge we put in front of Carson, he was able to overcome.”

Carson Patten and his horse Casper. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

“I love cowboys,” Carson said simply. “I get along with everybody. Everybody gets along with me.”

Carson took to roping quickly. When he fell, he got back up. When he failed, he tried again.

And after graduating from roping hay bales on the ground to catching a Hot Heels dummy behind an ATV, Carson looped his first live steer last week. And you can bet he let everyone know about it.

“I was proud of myself, I caught one,” he beamed. “It got everybody happy and my family and my friends.”

Tears welled in Erickson’s eyes as he recalled the moment.

“And when he caught it, and it was finally a real live steer, it was really emotional at that time,” he said. “And then when he hollered at my father-in-law, clear across the arena, he said ‘Mr. Mickelson, Mr. Mickelson, I caught my first steer!’ The water works came at that time.”

Carson has always loved rodeo. He travels the state with his parents Kaylene and Carl and can list his favorite events each summer.

“Roundup, Billings, Lewistown, Belt, Harlowton, Great Falls,” he recited.

His favorite roper is three-time world champion Tuf Cooper. In fact, Carson has “Tuf” emblazoned on his saddle and on his horse trailer. And inside that trailer is a top-notch horse named Casper. When Carson graduated from high school, his parents promised him tickets to the NFR. But when he told them he wanted to be a team roper, they got him a horse instead.

“Casper and me are friends,” Carson said. “He doesn’t get in trouble with me, and he does roping, cattle and trade horse. And also he likes to lope and he loves to go after the calves.”

Carson Patten (left) and Shawn “Tater” Erickson train at Erickson’s ranch in Hobson for Sunday’s Roy Rodeo. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

Watching Carson and Casper develop in the arena gave Erickson confidence that they were ready to take the next step.

“So we got this hair-brained idea, that if he kept roping and he kept working at it, me and him would enter the Roy Rodeo,” Tater said. “So we went and I said, ‘If we’re going to enter, we’re going to enter with full fees,’ and so we were able to talk to the Roy Rodeo committee and say, ‘Hey, we don’t want a whole bunch of special treatment.’”


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